Tenino Food Bank Plus Faces Donation and Supply Chain Issues

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As inflation continues to rise, not only are citizens feeling the burn in their pocket books but outreach organizations like the Tenino Food Bank Plus are seeing a decline in donations.

Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, visited the food bank in Tenino on Monday to tour the building.

“They’re doing such amazing work up there, not only helping feed veterans and clothe veterans, they have a whole ‘veterans closet’ dedicated to veterans,” Abbarno said in an interview with the Nisqually Valley News. “They’ve also reached out to a lot of senior centers and one other thing they do is reach out to students.”

He explained it’s important to reach out to students as many come from low income families and still need meals over the holiday and summer breaks.

“We go through our daily lives sometimes and forget and school is sometimes the only good, nutritious meal these kids get,” Abbarno said.

The food bank, according to Abbarno, is currently facing some supply chain issues and a shortage of cooked, canned proteins. Abbarno emphasized the need for quality, nutritious food not only for kids but for senior citizens as well.

Abbarno said the food bank is piloting a program where special education students who graduate from Tenino High School can work 15 hours a week at the food bank to learn job skills and get paid.

Tenino Food Bank Plus Executive Director Jody Stoltz said she estimates donations have dropped by more than half of their usual rate and said inflation has played a factor.

“In the past we would have to empty our (donation) barrels at least once a week if not twice a week. Now it’s every other week that we’ll empty the barrels,” Stoltz said.

Donations aren’t the only source of food that Tenino Food Bank Plus utilizes, but even the other sources have experienced issues.

There are funding issues for county programs like the Thurston County Economic Development Council’s Farm-to-Family program, which is about to run out of grant funding and end, according to Stoltz.

Another supplier out of Seattle, Food Lifeline, has also faced stocking issues and the catalog of food available that Stoltz used to get from them went from five pages in length to a single page. She attributed it to supply chain shortages.

“It’s because they can’t get (food) either. It’s not that (food) is not available just to be not available, it’s not available because there isn’t any,” Stoltz said. 

She stated many common staple foods the food bank usually receives like canned tomatoes and pasta have virtually disappeared. That’s a big issue especially for seniors who need nutritious food, she said.

“These seniors are not getting the nutrients they need because they’re spending more on gas and medicine and can’t afford food,” Stoltz said. “One of the problems with the seniors is they will keep their mouths shut so they suffer more because they will not advocate for themselves in the way of food.”



She added many households who come to the food bank are multigenerational because many seniors have had to move back in as they can’t afford to live on their own anymore.

“There’s a few seniors that live here in Tenino in fifth-wheels and trailers in a RV park here, and they just got a 12% increase in their rent,” Stoltz said.

She also stated protein donations have declined and the food bank has experienced issues with people who drop off raw proteins and other perishable items in the donation barrels which lack refrigeration.

“During the hottest part of the summer I wound up having to clean up a 10 pound package of ground beef that exploded inside our donation barrel,” Stoltz said.

She’s had to stop people from putting raw chicken, milk, cheese and yogurt in the barrel, too, adding “I don’t know what these people are thinking. I just do not understand this.”

With winter rapidly approaching and the food bank facing both donation and supply shortages, Stoltz said the donation warehouse is currently only about 30% full. Food shortages aren’t the only issue facing the food bank as temperatures begin to drop.

“We’re not getting any of the winter stuff that we’ve gotten in the past, so we’re kind of out just seeing what we can do,” Stoltz said.

As inflation keeps rising, Stoltz fears for the seniors in the area and for a lot of the families she serves.

“We’re seeing a lot of working poor folks. They’re trying to do the right thing and it’s just not working. The seniors are in a completely different category because they simply can’t work. These 70 and 80 year olds can’t go back to work,” Stoltz said.

Tenino Food Bank Plus is still accepting donations and looking for cooked, canned proteins, canned vegetables and any other food they can get. Stoltz emphasized the desire for more nutritious food donations.

“The kids love Top Ramen and their macaroni and cheese. We’ve all lived on it, but it’s not a thing to really be living on it, especially if you’re a senior,” she said. “Seniors should not be living on foods like that at all.”

According to Stoltz, the food bank will continue to operate, but they are urgently seeking more food to distribute.  The drop box for donations is still at the food bank. They also accept financial donations.

Donations can be made via PayPal to tcsct9o@scattercreek.com. For more information on other ways to donate or get involved with the food bank, email Stoltz at jody@teninocsc.org.

Stoltz said anyone who wants to donate food should aim to give nutritious and non-perishable items.

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